It’s a few days into the new year, but if you’re anything like me, you’re probably still fine-tuning your resolutions. When I was in college, every January was NEW YEAR NEW ME, and it was obvious by the scope and quantity of my resolutions that I spent 95% of my effort writing them down and virtually no energy on seeing them through. How could I? Instead of a list of goals, I was drafting a wishlist for my fairy godmother.
With a little time to mature, I’ve realized this time of year should be about NEW YEAR BETTER ME. I’m looking to bring out the best parts of who I already am (even if some of those parts are buried deep, deep under my bad Seamless habits). I want to focus my energy on achieving results, not just dreaming them up. To that end, I’ve compiled a list of 7 ways to help you accomplish your fitness resolutions in 2017:
1. BE REALISTIC
Note: I’m not saying don’t challenge yourself. But when you write down your goal, are you able to draw out a roadmap for how you’ll get there? If the goal is so overwhelming that you don’t even know where to start, chances are you’re going to get lost pretty soon. You’re much better off setting realistic goals that you can envision yourself accomplishing, and if you achieve it in five months—that’s amazing! Set another! You’ll feel so much better at the end of the year being able to look back on several small goals you accomplished, rather than ending the year feeling like a failure because you didn’t go completely vegan, workout every day, and convince Donald Trump that climate change is real.
2. YOUR WORKOUT SHOULDN’T FEEL LIKE WORK
I’m lucky in that I love my job and most days look forward to it, but I’ve had a couple of really terrible jobs before. I’d stay up way too late at night, avoiding sleep, because the sooner I went to bed, the sooner I had to wake up and go back to that terrible job. That feeling I’d have in the pit of my stomach—dread, anxiety, disappointment in myself—should never accompany a workout, or you’re not going to be doing it for much longer.
Your workout should be FUN above anything else. You want an activity you can grow with, that can change as you change with it, so that you can stimulate your mind as much as your calves. If it has the ability to evolve, there is always something new to go back for.
You also want to know that for all that you’re putting into it, you’re getting even more back out. Weight loss, self-defense, strength-training, friends, that post-workout high where you feel like you’re floating on the trek home. This is about what you’re gaining, not what you’re losing.
3. FIND A COMMUNITY
Want to know the #1 reason people have trouble consistently using their gym memberships? Because when they disappear for a week or two, nobody says anything. Weeks become months. And when the lapse in their workout routine goes unnoticed, they can pretend like it “doesn’t count.” News flash: everything counts.
Gyms provide anonymity, but this isn’t your subway commute; you don’t want to fade into the background because anonymity doesn’t work. It takes a village to have healthy fitness routines. Find a community that works for you: one small enough that people notice when you disappear. Pretty soon, you’ll realize your classmates are your support system and for many people, they also end up becoming some their best friends.
Physically challenging yourself on a regular basis isn’t easy, and fitness definitely isn’t a “solo sport.”
4. MAKE YOUR GOALS MEASURABLE
How do you know when you’ve hit your goal if your goal is something even more vague than your daily horoscope? Instead of writing down “Lose Weight,” tell yourself “I want to lose 5 pounds” or “I want to be able to do 25 pushups.” Setting quantifiable goals allows you to measure and track your success. Not only are you less likely to give up early, you’re also giving yourself built-in milestones to celebrate. Reward yourself when you hit 10, 15, 20 pushups and know that each step is an achievement. Like I said before: everything counts!
5. STOP USING TIME AS AN EXCUSE
Did you ever think that you have the same amount of hours in your week as Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg? And I’m going to venture a guess that they probably have a lot going on too. There is no secret to getting more time, but you can choose how you spend it. Figure out your priorities, and make trades where you can.
A couple of years ago, I was a full-time grad student at Columbia at the same time that I was Managing Editor for the school’s literary journal, working a full-time job, raising a puppy, balancing a dating life, and still finding “me” time. The only way I could make it all work was asking for help. I replaced grocery shopping with FreshDirect, cleaning the bathroom with Handy Services, and I ditched the laundry room for drop-off service.
And if I couldn’t pass the task to someone else, I tried to creatively work them together. Next time a friend calls wanting to meet up on gym night, instead of ghosting on either obligation, why don’t you combine the two? Have the friend meet you for class! You get to share a part of your world with your friend and probably show them something totally new.
Time is only an excuse if you let it be.
6. FIND A FITNESS COMPASS
Remember that roadmap I mentioned in the beginning? Creating a plan of attack from the get-go is important, but you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men… So when you find yourself veering off course, have a resource in place to guide you back.
That’s where having a community can really come in handy, but there are other ways too. If there’s a teacher you really like, talk to them after class about what’s been tripping you up and hear what they recommend. That same teacher who looks like they must workout even when they sleep? They face the same challenges as everyone else: a demanding job, a fear of failure, a family depending on them, a love for binging Netflix, a soft spot for Sunday brunch (I know I’m not the only one!). There have been days when we’ve all wanted to throw in the towel, and so I guarantee you they can offer some advice. There is also an endless well of resources online: blogs, Youtube videos, healthy cookbooks—heck, spend a few hours surfing inspirational quotes on Pinterest boards if that’s what helps you! Whatever it is, when you find it, hold on to it when times get tough.
7. FORGIVE YOURSELF
This is a marathon, not a sprint. We’re playing the long game! Want to know the difference between a setback and a failure when it comes to fitness? A failure is a setback that you used as an excuse to not try again.